Feeds

Would it be BAD if the Amazon rainforest was all FARMS? Well it WAS, once

Used to be all fields round here: Jungle tribesman saying

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

It's generally assumed that it would mean a disaster for the planet if the rainforests of the Amazon were to be replaced with farmland. But it turns out that, actually, much of the area was indeed farmland just a few thousand years ago.

We learn this from new research just published in the august Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A team of mainly British-based scientists carried it out, seeking to explain the presence of various large human-dug ditches and earthworks criss-crossing today's thick Amazon jungles - and pre-dating them.

Some in the paleo-boffinry community suggest that the ditches mean that the pre-Columbian civilisations of South America had slashed and burned the immemorial rainforests to create large intensively farmed areas home to dense populations. Others contend that actually the jungles remained largely intact, with just a few incursions by small communities of people.

Neither of these scenarios are true, apparently.

"We went to Bolivia hoping to find evidence of the kinds of crops being grown by ancient Amerindian groups, and to try to find how much impact they had on the ancient forest," explains Dr John Carson of Reading uni. "What we found was that they were having virtually no effect on the forest, in terms of past deforestation, because it didn't exist there until much later."

Carson goes on to say:

"The scale of the earthworks that were built on these sites suggests that the land was capable of supporting relatively large populations. Our analysis shows that they were growing maize and other food crops. They also likely caught fish, and there's evidence from other parts of the Bolivian Amazon for people farming Muscovy ducks and Amazonian river turtles.

"Our findings have serious implications for understanding past climate change, and how the Amazon basin might react to more modern forest clearance."

Carson cautions that the idea - advanced by some, since the earthworks have become known - that the rainforests will simply return naturally following modern deforestation is not supported by his new findings. The primitive Amazonians didn't deforest the area, so the fact that jungle spread across their farms from around the period 0-300AD - probably due to the climate getting wetter - doesn't mean that today's deforestations are easily reversible.

But the new research does rather conclusively cast doubt on the alternative notion, that the Amazon rainforests are an immutable necessity for a reasonable world climate. Plainly there have been times even just within recorded human history when large chunks of the current jungle simply weren't there, and the land was used for farms instead - without any associated eco-disaster.

Carson and his colleagues' research can be read by PNAS subscribers here. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.